“A sin committed once evokes regret. A sin committed twice seems permissible. A sin committed three times becomes a virtue in the eyes of the sinner.”
In this week’s parsha, Hashem commanded Moshe to go down to Pharaoh and command Pharoah to let Bnai Israel go. In the text, Hashem tells Moshe, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart and then multiply My signs and wonders in Egypt.” From this, Hashem implied that He will give Pharaoh the opportunity to do teshuva within the duration of the first five plagues. Hashem continues, and says that only after, if his wickedness persists that He will withhold providing him with His Helping Hand to assist Pharaoh in performing teshuva. Throughout the giving of the seven plagues, which are briefly discussed below, Hashem continuously provided Pharaoh with countless opportunities to do teshuva.
The 1st plague- Blood- Hashem told Moshe, if Pharaoh refuses to let the people go, He shall bring a devastating plague upon him and his people. Hashem tells Moshe to go down early in the morning to meet Pharaoh and warn him in the Nile. Here we see how Hashem, in His great mercy, rather than succumbing to destroy the Egyptian people altogether, provides Pharaoh with a warning in order to give him an opportunity to save his nation by repenting and recognizing Hashem’s awesomeness. However, Pharaoh disregarded the warning; therefore, Hashem commanded Moshe to smite the river with blood. Pharaoh attributes the blood in the Nile as a magic trick, one in which his own sorcerers could perform.
In Hashem’s mercy, we see how the first plague does not harm Pharaoh personally. Hashem still had patience in punishing Pharaoh because Moshe had been raised in his house. Also, Hashem was still hoping that Pharaoh would do teshuva. From this we can see how patient and compassionate Hashem is, stilling believing that even the most wicked people have the ability to return to Him.
The 2nd plague- Frogs- Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff so that all the rivers and ponds of Egypt would produce frogs. Before Hashem brought about additional frogs, Hashem gave the Egyptians another chance to recognize Him and repent.
The 3rd plague- Lice- The lice infested all the Egyptians and their animals. Pharaoh’s magicians recognized they did not have the power to emulate “this trick” and acknowledged that this plague was from the “finger of Hashem.” This plague allowed them to see that all the previous plagues were Divine wonders. Even though this acknowledgement of Hashem was apparent, Pharaoh did not do teshuva.
The 4th plague- Wild Beasts- Moshe came to warn Pharaoh, yet again, if he does not let the Jews go, Hashem will send wild beasts upon the Egyptian land; however, they will not enter the land of Goshen, where the Jews lived. Through this, it would be clear that Hashem is the ultimate ruler, thereby giving Pharaoh yet another chance to do teshuva; yet again, Pharaoh does not heed, and he continued to harden his heart.
The 5th plague- Pestilence- Moshe told pharaoh, that Hashem would kill all the Egyptian livestock, the very next day (after the plague of the wild beasts), to prove this was from the Hand of Hashem. This provided Pharaoh with yet another day to repent. But of course, Pharaoh ignored the warning and Egyptian animals were struck with pestilence and perished. Hashem gave Pharaoh five chances to repent, but now, Hashem hardened Pharaohs’ heart.
The 6th plague- Boils- This was possibly the most excruciating plague yet, bringing physical pain onto every single Egyptian. Pharaoh begged Moshe and Aaron to terminate the plague, but once the boils disappeared, Pharaoh did not fulfill his promise. Indeed it became more difficult for Pharaoh to repent, but Hashem still gave him the freedom to do so, if only Pharaoh made a sincere effort.
The 7th plague- Hailstone- Hashem said, “I have kept you alive during all the plagues so you can see My Power and My Name and so that you can see there is No Other Like Me On Earth.” All the Egyptians could see Hashem’s awesomeness at this point. The hailstorm was a combination of fire and water, to show Hashem was denying the laws of nature. However, before initiating the plague, Hashem still had pity and compassion on the Egyptian people. He said, “Gather yourselves and your possessions inside because I am about to create a huge hail storm and anything will perish in it.” Hashem started the plague with rain, giving the Egyptians yet another opportunity to do teshuva. Finally at this point, Pharaoh recognizes Hashem awesomeness and is marveled by the unification of fire and water and the havoc the hail created. He calls upon Moshe and Aaron and confessed,
“I have sinned this time. Hashem is righteous for He warned us previously to gather in the people and animals so that we should be saved, and I and my people are wicked for having disregarded His warning and caused innocent blood to be spilled, entreat Hashem that the plague should end I will let you go” (if only he could keep his word).
Throughout this parsha it is evident that “one who is willing to purify himself is assisted from above, and one who intends to defile himself is given the opportunity to do so” (Feinstein). From the seven plagues we can see how Hashem waited patiently and compassionately for Pharaoh to recognize Hashem and repent.
From all of this we can see how Hashem, as wonderful and Almightily as He is, is still waiting for all us to repent and come back to serving Him. Good or evil, He is awaiting the return of His children to engross once more in His sweet words of Torah. Let us all recognize, that no matter how far we think we have a strayed or how many times we have fallen, Hashem is still waiting for us to get back up and return to Him. Before sin becomes virtuous in our eyes, let us seek truth and find strength in developing ourselves once more. In His mercy and compassion, He does have faith in our return. Indeed the road back to Torah will be much more difficult than the road that led away from it, yet the reward will set us free from our current enslavement of guilt and estrangement.